May 21, 2013

The Evangelion Movies: 1.11 You Are (not) Alone, pt 1

Before I get into the meat 'n' taters of this here writeup, I'm going to cover a little bit of history for those readers who may be not be of an age to understand what Neon Genesis Evangelion really meant to anime.  To call it a game-changer would not be overstating matters in the least.  When the series came out in 1995, it brought with it a number of things that have become commonplace in anime... psychology, deeper themes, mind-blowing imagery, flawed (sometimes deeply flawed) characters, on and on.  When it was first broadcast, it made fans of the show out of people who had never watched anime before, or not since they were very young.  What's happening right now with the Game of Thrones TV series, with people who'd never think of opening a sword-and-sorcery novel hanging on every second of the new episodes, that's what happened with NGE.

In short, it was very, very ambitious, and that's where the problems began.  It went so far afield from the norm that there was some confusion over how to take the show.  Then Gainax, the production house, ran out of money and the final episodes were full of long, long still shots, reused footage, and in the final two episodes, a distinct art shift.  In fact, it never really gave the viewers an ending... or at least an ending people could understand.  Despite this, NGE was a ridiculously big hit... so big, in fact, that Gainax has made a bulletproof cash cow out of the merchandise for the show.  It also spawned a multitude of movies presenting the "true" endings of the series... none of which are to be the subject of these writeups.

Instead, what I'll be doing are the three newest films, collectively called "The Rebuild of Evangelion."  They are... similar... to the original series in many ways, but very different in others.  Which doesn't matter a hill of beans to those who have seen the original series.  There is no doubt in my mind, and those of others, that it is one of the few "must see" shows for a fan of anime.  That doesn't mean that the watcher will actually like the show, but it will almost certainly create strong feelings in the viewer.  Some will be turned off by the dysfunctional emotional cripples that make up the cast, some by the rather graphic violence, some by the weird mindf*cks that occur, whether by plan or by happenstance.  Me, I liked the show, but I've no interest in rewatching it.  Having said that, I'm on record as saying that I think the movies are great improvements over the original series, and I'm actually looking forward to doing these reviews!  So enough of my blathering, let's get to it!

The City of Townsville Tokyo-3!

...I've been playing SimCity3000 recently, and it looks like someone turned all the upkeep sliders waaay down on Tokyo-3.  Either that or Buttercup has finally gone crazy-go-nuts.  Somewhere in the midst of this begging-for-urban-renewal project is...

...Shinji Ikari, iconic whiner mama's boy emo crybaby boy wonder Our Hero.  Summoned to this city of surprisingly low property values by his father for reasons unknown, he's currently waiting to be picked up by...

...Misato Katsuragi, who really needs some HR counseling on what sort of things are appropriate to send to the children of co-workers.  Unfortunately for Shinji, he's arrived during the Tokyo-3 AirFest ExpoRama and Bake Sale.

Wow, cool!  And they're all flying backwards in formation, too!  Still, you have to wonder why there aren't more people out and about for the AirFest ExpoRama and Bake Sale.  Don't people like homemade cupcakes anymore?

Holy fishsticks, it's an Alone!  It's TechnoMagical Girl Time!  Right?  Isn't it?  Hey?  Red-Headed Freak?  Hot Dark Girl Rei?  Himawari?  Anybody?  Shinji pees himself with fear, which is the last sensible thing he'll do in these writeups, and is knocked down when the... THING... splats a flying unit right in front of him.  Then, just as THING prepares to step on Shinji (quite by accident, because... well, look at it)...

...Misato comes driving up in her not-quite-a-sportscar, tells Our Hero to get in, then hurriedly backs away.  Please note, this may be the last sensible thing Misato does in these writeups as well.  As she bugs out faster than the French Imperial Guard at Waterloo, let us change our focus to what the conventional military is doing to stop the Alone.

I'm having trouble with this particular aircraft design... it looks like an Ekranoplan crossed with the USS Texas.  And no, there's no scale mixup here, the bomb being dropped really is roughly the same size as the plane.  Unfortunately, they are about as effective as you'd expect a pre-dreadnought battleship mixed with a B-52 to be.

The military men grumble in impotent fury as their conventional weaponry manages to do nothing more than begin the urban renewal program a bit early.  In the way military men do in anime, they decide that there's nothing more for them to do but to go nuke.  Again, I'll point out that for a people that hate nukes, the Japanese sure do seem to love using them in their entertainment.  Oh, they won't CALL them nukes, no indeed.  That's the sort of thing that Americans would do.  But "N2 Mines" are cool because it's techie and not at all like a nuke.  Not in the least.

Boom boom boom boom.  Right, that's that then.  Good job, everybody, good job.  Let's just not come in tomorrow, let's take a day.  You ever try shawarma?  There's a shawarma joint about two blocks from here, I dunno what it is but I want to try it. 

Holy fishsticks!  It's a trope!  Code Brown!  CODE BROWN!!!  The military men sit in abject defeat as they watch the Alone begin to regenerate what damage it did receive from the N2 mine (mostly cosmetic).  They then turn their attention to a man standing to the fore of their position in the control room... and abdicate responsibility to him.  "We've got nothing in our arsenal that can defeat this Angel.  Do you?"  So now we know what to actually call the Alone... angel?  I'm not seeing a halo, wings or harp anywhere...

"NERV exists for that very purpose," replies Gendo Plushyferret Ikari.  Ikari?  Ikari?  Where have we heard that name before?

*ding*  So Shinji Plushyferret is coming to visit dad at work, how nice!  Well, um, not so fast there, skippy.  Big Daddy Ikari sent his son away some years ago for reasons unknown, then never contacted him again... until now.  Why?  Shinji doesn't know, but he's not exactly all that thrilled about the prospects ahead.  I suppose one can hardly blame him.  Still, he's had an exciting first couple of hours in Tokyo-3, can't deny that.  Airshow, nearly gets stepped on by a weird thing called an "Angel" that's out to destroy humanity somehow, has a notanuke go off in his face, and has a big piece of christmas cake land in his lap.  Yep, exciting.  And now it's take your child to work day.

Here's where Gendo Plushyferret works.  NERV HQ is underground, and has a friggin' upside-down city hanging over it.  For whatever reason, I suspect there's more than a few OSHA violations involved with that.  Now, many of you are probably saying that OSHA rules wouldn't apply to something like this being built in Japan, but believe me: OSHA would find a way.  They're worse than the phone cops, man, and ain't nothin' worse than the phone cops.  After a trip through the depths of NERV HQ, a trip so epic that I kept expecting to see four hobbits, a wizard, an elf, a dwarf and various other hangers-on going by in the other direction, we finally discover just exactly why Shinji has been summoned.

It's "the ultimate in man-made fighting machines," an Evangelion.  Specifically, Unit 01.  It's designed to defend humanity from the threat of the Alones Angels.  It also makes a mean cup of coffee.  It's also mankind's last hope for survival, and the task that Gendo Plushyferret Ikari has been working on all these years.

And it's up to Shinji to pilot it.  Shinji, apparently aware that he's in an anime, screams that he can't do it, he's never even seen this thing before and they expect him to go up top and fight that beastie?  "Yes, because only you can." What are you, nuts?  As time goes on, we will see that the answer to THAT question is "yep, worse than a squirrel's menu."  For now, however, we have to assume that mankind is doomed.  Truthfully, I'm not sure which is worse: Shinji not piloting Unit 01, or Shinji getting in the cockpit.  Dear ol' Dad, showing the empathy that surely has earned him many Father of the Year awards, tells his only son to either pilot the thing or leave.

...and then the Angel starts getting all zap-happy and begins blowing up stuff on the way to NERV HQ.  It's awfully good at it, too.  Two, three shots and suddenly all the protective stuff is gone.  Gendo proclaims his son useless (the first thing he's gotten right all week) and calls for the other pilot to be reactivated.  Wait, what happened to all that "only you can" stuff a few sentences ago?  Then the other pilot arrives.

On a mobile hospital bed.  Oh.  Ladies and Gentlemen, Teh (Hot Blue Haired) Rei has finally arrived, and all is right with the world.  Well, as you can see, no, no it isn't, but things are looking up.  As opposed to Shinji, who's looking at something not exactly "up."  He is a 14-year old boy, y'know.  He may be a whiney, angsty little beeyotch with daddy issues, but he's not blind.  Neither is the Angel, who just called B-3.

"You sank my battleship!"  Actually, it's worse than that: the shock wave from this attack sends everything arse over teakettle down in NERV HQ... including what appears to be the world's most unstable hospital bed.

Teh (Hot Blue Haired) Rei is down.  Gainax has her making all sorts of pitiable little squeaks and moans of pain as she writhes on the deck... nah, they have no idea what their fanboi hordes want, do they?  Shinji, no better than the rest of 'em, runs over and cradles her in his arms... and discovers that she's bleeding from somewhere or other.  Finally, finally, he realizes he's in a true otaku fantasy: he's being asked to pilot a giant robot to save the world while being surrounded by hot chicks and getting a chance to gain his father's approval.  Then he looks up at the camera and says "I'm not going to do it."

Nah, only funnin' ya.  Of COURSE he says "I'll pilot Unit 01." 

And that's just the first 15 minutes of the first movie.  So far, it's pretty much exactly like the original series, just with better graphics and somewhat less whining from Shinji.  Win-win, if you ask me.  Next time, we'll see Shinji vs Zombies!  See ya then!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 10:45 PM | Comments (7) | Add Comment
Post contains 1863 words, total size 15 kb.

1 N2, actually, stood for "non-nuclear". Uh huh...

Posted by: AvatarADV at May 22, 2013 01:38 AM (GJQTS)

2 Hah! Improved greatly by the fact that this follows the ViviDred write-ups, with bonus points for the reference to that great Powerpuff Girls / Evangelion parody opening AMV.

I've not been able to bring myself to watch these movies yet; the original series I watched once solely because That's What You're Supposed To Do, and I haven't gone back since.

Posted by: GreyDuck at May 22, 2013 08:42 AM (3m7pZ)

3 Evangelion didn't do anything for character development that Space Battleship Yamato or Miyazaki or scores of other shows hadn't done first. If you were paying attention. Which apparently a lot of viewers weren't doing. (To be fair, a lot of the dubs and subs were really bad back then.)

Shrug. I found Evangelion really boring and unsubtle when it came out, frankly. I literally couldn't see what was so exciting. But obviously it was a gamechanger for some, because lots of unsubtle characterization and angst and flawed characters followed. (In retrospect, I think what really excited people is that it caught that don't-trust-the-narrative thing that made X-Files popular.)

Oh, well. It's worth watching, but it never was as important as people's (inexplicably strong) response to it was. (Also barely got through the first boring book of Game of Thrones, despite or because of being a big fan of long fantasy and of the Wars of the Roses. You couldn't pay me to watch the show.)

Posted by: Suburbanbanshee at May 23, 2013 12:23 PM (cvXSV)

4 Sorry, went off on my own inexplicably ranty rant.

Maybe the upside-down city is a sign that Ikari went to Ohmori Academy with Utena's predecessors.

Posted by: Suburbanbanshee at May 23, 2013 07:01 PM (cvXSV)

5 Except Evangelion finished airing over a year before Utena began airing.

Posted by: Wonderduck at May 23, 2013 10:54 PM (lpH3d)

6 But the show's events occurred twenty years after Utena finished airing in Japan.  So presumably Ikari was a fan of the show.

Posted by: Mitch H. at May 24, 2013 06:49 AM (jwKxK)

7 I meant it in a fanfic crossover sense....

I suppose the real artistic source for the upside-down cities and castles is Escher and such, or maybe just the persistent idea that you ought to be able to reach into the reflection of a castle that's in water below it.

Posted by: Suburbanbanshee at May 24, 2013 05:36 PM (cvXSV)

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